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(Canada) Alberta school "excited" over sensory room-"an emerging mental-health trend"

Oct 4, 2018, St Albert (AL) Gazette: A better way for a timeout—Sensory rooms put kids in control When Bertha Kennedy student Annika Pearce is feeling stressed, she knows to go to the Healthy BobKats Room. It’s kind of a cross between a reading room and a really relaxed gym. In one half, kids can hop between stepping-stones, clamber on climbing walls, bounce balls, flip battle ropes, pound a punching post or pedal bikes. In the other, they can sit on comfy cushions beneath shaded lights and curl up with a good book. Annika, who has autism, said she’s learned to ask to go to this room whenever she feels stressed in class. … The BobKats Room is an example of a sensory or therapy room – an emerging mental-health trend in Alberta schools. Sensory rooms are dedicated spaces meant to help youths, often those with autism, learn to regulate their emotions, said Carole Anne Patenaude of Autism Edmonton. … (The province is rewriting its rules for isolation rooms in response to a lawsuit involving a Sherwood Park student with autism who was allegedly locked in one.) The trend now is to teach students how to recognize and regulate their emotions, Keohane said. Instead of the teacher pulling the student out of class, the student, sometimes with the teacher’s help, decides if they need to use a sensory room. While most schools now have sensory rooms, their designs vary greatly, said Rhonda Nixon, assistant superintendent with Greater St. Albert Catholic. … While most often used with youths on the autistic spectrum, a sensory room can help any student having a bad day, Keohane said. Bertha Kennedy opened its sensory room last May and now has all its students spend time in it daily, said learning support facilitator Josie Cancian…. “They’re excited because we have a climbing wall in our school now and they can kick or punch a bag safely.”…


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